This Thursday, Britain will go to the polls to decide whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union. Although both sides have been accused of scaremongering, Vote Leave have a campaign based heavily on inaccurate and incorrect foundations. Here are Leave’s claims debunked.
MYTH 1 – THE EU COSTS BRITAIN £350M A WEEK
Membership of the EU costs the UK significantly less than this. Firstly, this figure does not include the UK’s national rebate, negotiated in 1984 by Margaret Thatcher. This reduces Britain’s membership fee is reduced by £5bn a year. Moreover, the UK treasury receives £88m a week from the EU, which is allocated to areas including agriculture, infrastructure, rural development, funding for economically deprived regions of the country (eg. Cornwall), and money towards medical research and renewable energy. Finally, the private sector in Britain benefits through money towards scientific research, funding for universities and engineering projects – amounting to £27m a week.
When all of this is considered, membership costs the UK roughly £2.50 per person per week, or £161 million a week. That total is less than Britain’s overseas aid budget, which amounts to less than 1% of the UK’s total GDP. For this £2.50 a week, every person in Britain has reduced costs for products in their weekly shop, cheaper flights, workers’ rights, consumers’ rights and protections from discrimination, defended from being overruled or repealed.
MYTH 2 – 250,000 EU MIGRANTS COME TO BRITAIN EVERY YEAR, COMMITTING CRIME AND PUTTING A STRAIN ON UK PUBLIC SERVICES
Being part of the EU allows citizens in any member state to live and work anywhere else within the EU, something that 2 million Britons have taken advantage of. EU immigration contributes 50% to total immigration figures, with 3 million of the UK population being born in a EU member state (5% of the total figure of 65 million). Immigrants from the EU are more likely to be in work than UK citizens (78% to 74%), contributing £25bn more in taxes than they receive, according to a 2014 study.
Just like UK nationals, EU migrants’ eligibility to claim benefits is dependent on their contribution to the system. However, as the Centre of Research and Analysis of Migration noted, between 2001 and 2011, EU migrants contributed 34% in tax than they received in benefits and services, and were much less likely to claim benefits than the UK average.
On the issue of crime, studies have continually shown that, in the UK, ‘areas that have witnessed the greatest percentage of recent immigrants arriving since 2004 have not witnessed higher levels of robbery, violence or sex offending’. Pressure on public services has not come about due to EU immigration, it has come about due to a lack of proper funding by the Tory government.
Rather than putting a strain on services, EU immigrants are benefiting them – with 10% of nurses in the NHS being from other EU states. As well as this, current UK law stipulates that, within three months, EU migrants have to be working, self-employed, be studying or have enough money to live on to have the ‘right to reside’ in the UK.
The reality is that decisions made by governments in the UK have resulted in the housing crisis and increased waiting times in the NHS, not the EU and not immigration. The housing crisis has been 40 years in the making, after local councils were stopped from building houses on a large scale in the 1980s. The problems the NHS faces have caused by government cuts by the current government, and would not be fixed by leaving the EU. In fact, many of those advocating we leave the EU have previously expressed support for privatising the NHS. Who is the real threat to public services? EU immigrants who contribute and work in the public sector or politicians who are all too willing to sell off our public assets to their friends in the City?
On top of all this, Vote Leave’s claim that leaving the EU will allow Britain to ‘take back control of our borders’ is flawed. In reality, voting to leave would not necessarily change the number of immigrants that come to Britain. If we want a decent trade deal with the EU, we would likely have to join the European Free Trade Agreement, which could result in joining the Schengen Area, something Britain negotiated a veto for upon its creation in 1985. The EU has and will continue to respect Britain’s exclusion from Schengen, but it is unknown whether the UK could maintain this if we leave.
MYTH 3: TURKEY IS SET TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN UNION, SENDING MORE IMMIGRANTS OUR WAY
Turkey has been an applicant for EU membership since 1987 and progress towards them becoming a member has been incredibly slow. So far Turkey is unable to meet many of the chapters that have to be completed to join, particularly due to its poor record on human rights. If Turkey were to meet these, which is very unlikely for the foreseeable future, any EU nation could veto their accession, as France did to the UK when we first tried to join. Cyprus would certainly veto their membership due to the ongoing dispute over Northern Cyprus. In short, the idea that Turkey will join the EU within the next ten years, sending waves of Turkish migrants to Britain is nothing but a fantasy dreamt up by the Leave campaign.
MYTH 4: BRITISH TAXPAYERS ARE PROPPING UP A FAILING EUROZONE
Britain is not a member of the Eurozone and will not contribute to future Eurozone bailouts. This was agreed in 2011, and reinforced in the deal David Cameron reached in February.
MYTH 5: OVER HALF OUR LAWS ARE MADE BY UNELECTED OFFICIALS IN BRUSSELS AND BRITAIN IS ALWAYS OUTVOTED
In reality, the number of Acts and Statutory Instruments that have been influenced by EU law amounts to only 13%, nowhere near the 50+ figure Vote Leave claim.
Laws in the EU are created by the EU Commission, made up of 28 members (one from each country). Their proposals are then debated by the 751 elected MEPs in the European Parliament (of which the UK has 73), and also reviewed by the EU Council, which like the EU Commission is made up of 28 relevant ministers (one from each country). If all three of these bodies agree, it becomes law. If they fail to agree after three rounds of discussion and debate, the bill is binned. It is not too dissimilar from our own system of governance, where one elected House debates a bill alongside an unelected House.
In addition, EU voting records show that UK ministers and the UK had voted against EU law only 2% of the time, with Britain being on the winning side 95% of time (UK abstained 3%). As well as this, the British diplomatic service and our MEPs (the third largest contingent) have also been credited for being able to negotiate and vote to ensure Britain gets a deal that works for the UK.
MYTH 6: EU LAW DAMAGES THE BRITISH ECONOMY
The regulation introduced by the European Union is not damaging to the UK. EU law is instrumental in protecting the environment, protecting citizens from discrimination, and protecting consumers’ and workers’ rights. As well as this, Britain has been able to negotiate exemptions from certain EU legislation which was viewed to threaten UK interests, such as regulation of financial services.
Leaving the EU would not change this, because being a part of the single market will still require following EU law. For example, although Norway gets some exemptions on EU legislation, it still has to follow 90% of EU law and pay in to the single market, whilst having no representation or influence in their creation. In addition, leaving would put some rights protected by EU law at risk; some in the Leave camp have hinted that workers’rights would have to be ‘flexible’ if we leave and there is no clear idea what laws Britain would opt to scrap, meaning protections for the environment, animal rights, and protection from discrimination could be at risk.
In summary, the arguments made by those campaigning for a Brexit are based on dodgy statistics, false claims and the scapegoating of immigrants to cover the work of UK governments. The country is on the brink of voting to leave based on a campaign of lies and deceit. Do not fall for it and vote Remain on Thursday 23rd June.